The Architect of These Monstrous, Alien Cities Is an Algorithm
Daniel Brown’s photos reveal an alien landscape of concrete canyons, geometric patterns, and dark windows. They bring to mind an enormous spaceship, or a dystopian world.
Brown makes his images using generative design software he wrote himself. It creates enormous, complex 3-D patterns that he searches until finding something interesting. The process makes him equal parts magician, explorer, and artist.
The London designer and programmer began experimenting with the medium more than a decade ago. An accident in 2003 left him with limited ability to use his hands, prompting him to explore tools that didn’t require holding a paintbrush or pencil. Generative design, which uses an algorithm to dictate the final product, be it a piece of music, an image, or a sculpture, seemed ideal. Brown used it to craft a city that seemingly grows on its own for Reverse Archeology, and gorgeous abstract forms inspired by Middle Eastern architecture in City of God.
In his most recent work, Dantilon: The Brutal Deluxe, Brown’s software builds monstrous structures using cubic forms. “I set about programming algorithms to generate an imaginary city,” he says. “One that I could populate with buildings and structures without having to draw or 3-D model.”
Brown begins by plugging random numbers into the program, which uses fractal mathematics to create unique shapes that resemble a 3-D graph. He spends several hours “exploring” the terrain until he finds an interesting form. Brown isolates the shape, and tweaks it until he arrives at something he likes. Then the program applies bits and pieces of public domain photos of 1970s apartment buildings. The result is hulking, maze-like structures that appear to go on forever.
The scenes climb and twist at odd angles that bring to mind the film Inception. Brown sees it as a chance to create something he can explore uninhibited. “It gives me an opportunity to kind of feel that wonderful sense of discovery and achievement,” he says. “So instead of climbing a mountain, I’m mining this mathematical space looking for the same thing—that beautiful destination that nobody’s ever heard of or seen before.”
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